Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Hi, if for any reason you are tired of getting these forwards on the world
situation please let me know. I'll take you off my list.
This, I assume, appeared first in German.

> June 6, 2005
> Osama's Road to Riches and Terror
> By Georg Mascolo and Erich Follath
> The Bin Laden family disowned black sheep Osama in 1994. But have
> they really broken with the mega-terrorist? Recently revealed
> classified documents seem to suggest otherwise. Osama's violent
> career has been made possible in part by the generosity of his
> family -- and by his contacts with the Saudi royals.
> In early spring 2002, American intelligence agents tipped off
> authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina that something wasn't quite right
> with the "Benevolence International Foundation." Their reaction was
> swift; special forces stormed eight offices of the Islamic foundation
> in Sarajevo and in Zenica. They found weapons and explosives, videos
> and flyers calling for holy war. More importantly, however, they
> discovered a computer with a mysterious file entitled "Tarich Osama" -
> - Arabic for "Osama's Story."
> After printing out the file -- close to 10,000 pages worth -- the
> intelligence experts quickly realized they had stumbled upon a true
> goldmine. They were looking at nothing less than the carefully
> documented story of al-Qaida, complete with scanned letters, minutes
> of secret meetings, photos and notes -- some even written in Osama
> Bin Laden's handwriting. CIA experts secured the highly sensitive
> material, dubbed "Golden Chain," and took everything back to the
> United States. To this day, only fragments of the material have been
> published. Now, however, SPIEGEL magazine has been given complete
> access to the entire series of explosive documents dating from the
> late 1980s to the early 1990s.
> During that time, Osama bin Laden, known as "OBL" in CIA parlance,
> was primarily interested in "preserving the spirit of jihad" that had
> developed during the successful Afghanistan campaign -- a fight which
> saw an international group of Muslim fighters stand up to the mighty
> Soviet army. Bin Laden wanted to expand the group's activities to
> battle "the infidels" in the West. A full decade before the attacks
> on the Twin Towers, the documents make horrifyingly clear, bin Laden
> was already dreaming of "staging a major event for the mass media, to
> generate donations."
> Finances are the focal point in these early al-Qaida documents. OBL,
> as one of the heirs of a large construction company, had a
> substantial fortune at his disposal, but it was still not enough to
> finance global jihad. The Saudi elite -- and his own family -- came
> to his assistance.
> "Be generous when doing God's work"
> The evidence lies in the most valuable document investigators managed
> to acquire: a list of al-Qaida's key financial backers. The list,
> titled with a verse from the Koran, "Let us be generous when doing
> God's work," is a veritable who's who of the Middle Eastern monarchy,
> including the signatures of two former cabinet ministers, six bankers
> and twelve prominent businessmen. The list also mentions "the bin
> Laden brothers." Were these generous backers aware, at the time, that
> were not just donating money to support the aggressive expansion of
> the teaching of the Islamic faith, but were also financing acts of
> terror against non-believers? Did "the bin Laden brothers," who first
> pledged money to Al-Qaida and then, in 1994, issued a joint press
> statement declaring that they were ejecting Osama from the family as
> a "black sheep," truly break ties with their blood relatives -- or
> were they simply pulling the wool over the eyes of the world?
> Vincent Cannistraro, former head of counterterrorism for the CIA,
> says, "I tracked the bin Ladens for years. Many family members
> claimed that Osama was no longer one of them. It's an easy thing to
> say, but blood is usually thicker than water."
> Carmen bin Laden, a sister-in-law of the terrorist, who lived with
> the extended family in Jeddah for years, says, "I absolutely do not
> believe that the bin Ladens disowned Osama. In this family, a brother
> is always a brother, no matter what he has done. I am convinced that
> the complex and tightly woven network between the bin Laden clan and
> the Saudi royal family is still in operation."
> French documentary filmmaker Joël Soler even goes so far as to refer
> to the family as "A Dynasty of Terror," in his somewhat speculative
> made-for-TV piece.
> But could this really be possible? Are the bin Ladens
> (or "Binladins," as they more commonly spell it), with their 25
> brothers, 29 sisters, in-laws, aunts and, by now, at least 15
> children of Osama, nothing but a clan of terrorists? Or are relatives
> being taken to task for the crimes of one family member, all on the
> strength of legends and conspiracy theories?
> American celebrity attorney Ron Motley plans to file a lawsuit
> against alleged Saudi backers of al-Qaida on behalf of hundreds of
> families who lost relatives in the terrorist attacks of September 11,
> 2001. Listed among the defendants summoned by federal judge Richard
> Casey at Motley's request in January 2005 were Osama and one of his
> brothers, as well as the family's billion-dollar business in Jeddah,
> the "Saudi Binladin Group."
> Tracking the bin Ladens across the globe
> To form an impression of this rather unique extended family, one
> would have to travel to the desert kingdom, where it has its roots,
> as well as to Washington, Geneva, London and the border region
> between Pakistan and Afghanistan -- in other words, to all those
> places where the bin Ladens have left their tracks or where they live
> today. And the best way to get to the bottom of this clan is to piece
> together its many parts. Only then will it become more apparent
> whether the bin Ladens are a clan of terrorists or (with one well-
> known exception) a terribly affable family.
> The bin Laden story, with its dramatic twists and turns, almost comes
> across as an Arab version of Thomas Mann's novel "Buddenbrooks." In
> both cases, it's the story of an imposing patriarch, who has managed
> to hold the clan together, and of his sons, who cannot or do not wish
> to stop the family's moral decline.
> "We have a mayor and all kinds of political heavyweights. But the
> truly ruler of Jeddah is Bakr bin Laden," says an informer who agreed
> to speak only under condition of anonymity. "But Bakr is never seen
> in public, and when he does occasionally go to the Intercontinental
> Hotel for dinner -- usually with Osama's son Abdullah -- he has the
> entire restaurant closed. During a tour of the city, the source
> points out a glass and steel palace not far from the city's downtown
> area, with its twisting alleyways and smattering of restored old
> houses. It's the headquarters of SBG, the secretive realm of Bakr Bin
> Laden, 58, the son of the family's patriarch and chairman of the
> company's board of directors.
> Jeddah is the place where the clan's founding father began his
> astonishing career. And it's also the place where the first family
> member became connected with Islamic terrorism -- not Osama, but his
> older brother, Mahrus bin Laden. US authorities have also clearly
> linked another member of the clan, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, who is
> married to one of Osama's sisters, to terrorist attacks abroad.
> Although Bin Laden senior -- Mohammed bin Laden -- was practically
> illiterate, he was blessed with tremendous energy and keen sense of
> business. In 1930, he left his village, Ribat, in the desperately
> poor Yemeni region of Hadramaut, and headed north. In Jeddah, then a
> small city, he eked out a living as a porter for pilgrims,
> steadfastly saving his earnings to start his own company.
> A year later, when the desert kingdom of Saudi Arabia gained its
> independence, the immigrant from the south was still struggling to
> make ends meet. But he quickly recognized the two factors that were
> becoming increasingly important in his adopted country: oil, which
> had been flowing from Saudi wells since 1938, and, with its enormous
> profits, was revolutionizing the country's traditional society and
> causing nomadic tribes to take up roots; and the country's
> authoritarian king, whose patronage sometimes determined survival,
> but always determined social advancement.
> A third factor that was critical to the success of the state, and was
> symbiotically linked with the monarchy from the very beginning, was
> the religious establishment in its uniquely Saudi form. The
> principles of Wahhabism-- as Saudi Islam is known -- have their roots
> with the 18th century radical zealot Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the Sauds'
> most powerful ally in their efforts to take control of the peninsula.
> After the founding of the Saudi state, fundamentalism became the
> official religion.
> The royal court builder
> Mohammed bin Laden had no quarrels with either the preachers or the
> princes; his only goal was to make it to the top, and the
> construction business was the ideal launching pad. The kingdom needed
> roads, railroads and airports. Bin Laden senior built ramps in the
> palace for the handicapped King Abd al-Aziz's wheelchair and highways
> into the mountains for his luxury cars. Bin Laden was later named
> Minister of Public Spending, and the royal family even awarded him
> the contract to renovate the country's holy sites. The family
> business, SBG, quickly developed into the court builder for the
> entire Saudi infrastructure.
> Following an old Islamic tradition, the bin Laden senior kept
> numerous wives. In 1956, he sired child number 17 with a Syrian woman
> from Latakia, and the boy was named Osama. It must have been
> difficult for the patriarch to keep track of his family; ten years
> later, child number 54 was born -- Mohammed bin Laden's last
> offspring. In 1968, the patriarch was killed when his Cessna, piloted
> by an American, crashed -- a foreshadowing of things to come.
> The king placed the family business, SBG, under the management of a
> trustee, making the bin Laden sons the de facto wards of the monarch.
> Osama was ten years old at the time and he was occasionally allowed
> to ride along on the company's bulldozers. But he had hardly known
> his father -- a deficit he recognized only later in life when he
> elevated the family's patriarch to the status of Spiritus Rector in
> matters of Islamic fundamentalism.
> Even as a boy, Osama was always considered the "holy one" in the
> family. He drew attention to himself when he denounced school soccer
> tournaments as a godless waste of time and assiduously monitored the
> houses of neighbors, taking it upon himself to enforce the state's
> prohibition of music. He enrolled in the economics program at
> Jeddah's King Abd al-Aziz University, where the curriculum was
> determined by anti-Western agitators from the Egyptian Muslim
> Brotherhood.
> The family became divided, into a more stationary branch, and
> an "international" branch that settled across the globe. One member
> of the latter camp was Salem bin Laden. He attended a British
> university, married a woman from an upper-class British family, and
> vacationed in Disneyland. In 1972, when the Saudi government
> relinquished control over SBG, Salem, as the family's eldest son, was
> named head of the company and quickly made it clear that he had no
> compunctions about doing business with the United States.
> Salem bin Laden established the company's ties to the American
> political elite when, according to French intelligence sources, he
> helped the Reagan administration circumvent the US Senate and funnel
> $34 million to the right-wing Contra rebels operating in Nicaragua.
> He also developed close ties with the Bush family in Texas. But
> Salem's successors, not Salem, were the ones who were able to fully
> capitalize on these connections. In 1988, Salem died in a plane crash
> near San Antonio, Texas, when the aircraft he was piloted became
> entangled in a power line. After Salem's death, Bakr took control of
> SBG.
> Brother terrorist
> In the meantime, trouble was brewing at home in Saudi Arabia -- in
> Mecca, of all places, and with the presumed involvement of a family
> member. In November 1979, insurgents occupied and barricaded
> themselves into Islam's holiest site, demanding an end to corruption
> and wastefulness in Saudi Arabia and charging the royal family with
> having lost its legitimacy by currying favor with the West. It was an
> act of terror that foreshadowed every major plank of the al-Qaida
> platform of radical fundamentalism -- and it was no coincidence that
> this radical group was lead by members of the Muslim Brotherhood with
> ties to Osama's professors.
> At the time, Osama was still entrenched in Saudi society, but his
> older brother, Mahrus, maintained ties to the fanatics. It's even
> speculated that he may have used his access to SBG's offices to
> obtain the renovation plans for the Great Mosque, together with all
> its secret passageways, and handed them over to the radicals. In any
> event, the fanatics forced their way onto the mosque's grounds in a
> truck that was later identified as a Binladin company vehicle.
> Mahrus bin Laden was arrested, but was then released for lack of
> evidence. The terrorist attack turned into a nightmare for the
> authorities. With the help of French special forces, the Saudis
> managed to overcome the attackers, but only after a two-week siege
> and a bloody battle claiming more than a hundred lives. For Mahrus's
> career, however, the affair proved to be nothing more than a minor
> speed bump and he later resurfaced as head of SBG's office in Medina.
> In late 1979, Osama, with the royal family's blessing, set off for
> Afghanistan to participate in the jihad against the Soviet Union,
> which had invaded its neighbor to the south. Both the CIA and Saudi
> Arabia helped fund the Mujahedeen's armed struggle against the
> communist "infidels." Prince Turki, head of the Saudi secret service,
> visited Osama several times in Afghanistan and heavy equipment
> provided by the SBG family business was used to excavate secret
> tunnels. For Osama, the support of the Saud family and the bin Ladens
> became a reliable source of funding.
> In 1990, after his triumph in Afghanistan, OBL offered the Saudi
> royal family the use of his troops to battle Saddam Hussein, whose
> forces had invaded Kuwait. But King Fahd decided instead to bring in
> American forces. The decision proved to be a financial coup for the
> family business, which helped build military bases for the outsiders,
> but it was turning point in Osama's life. Embittered, he went to
> Sudan in 1992, where he built training camps and organized attacks
> with his al-Qaida group, especially against "infidels" from the
> United States. He also made sure that the planning of terrorist
> activities remained in the family. His brother-in-law, Mohammed Jamal
> Khalifa, was involved in the first terrorist attack on the World
> Trade Center in 1993. On his visa application for the United States,
> he had listed his occupation as an "employee of the Saudi Binladin
> Group." Khalifa was briefly detained in the United States, but was
> then deported to Jordan, where he was released because of formal
> legal errors. In the past, he had also been implicated as a financial
> backer of the Philippine Abu Sayyaf terrorist organization.
> © DER SPIEGEL 23/2005
> Tracking Osama's Kin Around the World
> By Erich Follath and Georg Mascolo
> Osama bin Laden's family has disavowed itself from its
> terrorist "black sheep," but the discrepancies are considerable. In
> interviews with his family that took our reporters to Paris,
> Arlington, Virginia, Geneva and the furthest-flung corners of
> Pakistan, we take a closer look and the ties he may or may not still
> have to his relatives.
> Editor's Note: This is the second in a two-part series. You can read
> the first installment here.
> Osama also stayed in touch with his friends from the Saudi
> intelligence agency, even after Libya issued a warrant for his
> arrest, charging bin Laden with alleged involvement in the murder of
> two Germans -- an official working for Germany's Federal Office for
> the Protection of the Constitution and his wife. Prince Turki sent
> Osama's mother, Hamida, and his brother Bakr to the Sudanese capital,
> Khartoum, several times to convince Osama to abandon his terrorist
> activities. The visits were so frequent that Israel's intelligence
> agency, the Mossad, believed at the time that Osama was a Saudi spy.
> Washington increasingly came under pressure to do something about
> OBL, especially after his involvement in attacks in Somalia and
> Yemen. The US government met with Saudi officials behind the scenes,
> confronting them with satellite images of al-Qaida training camps in
> northern Sudan. In April 1994, King Fahd finally revoked Osama bin
> Laden's Saudi Arabian citizenship. The bin Laden family followed
> suit, issuing a sparse, two-sentence statement, signed by Bakr,
> disowning Osama.
> Despite these actions, OBL was still far from being a "black sheep"
> with no ties to his native country. Saudi intelligence chief Prince
> Turki visited bin Laden several times after he had moved from Sudan
> to Afghanistan to join forces with the radical Taliban. Turki
> allegedly brought along expensive gifts to Kandahar, in the form of
> dozens of pickup trucks. According to a former member of the Taliban
> intelligence service, Prince Turki and OBL made a deal: The Saudis
> would support al-Qaida financially, but only under the condition that
> there would be no attacks on Saudi soil. (Prince Turki, now Saudi
> Arabia's ambassador to Great Britain, has denied these claims,
> telling SPIEGEL that they are "nothing but fantasy.")
> On Jan. 9, 2001, OBL attended his son Mohammed's wedding in Kandahar,
> accompanied, according to CIA sources, by his mother and two of his
> brothers. The CIA also claims that "two of Osama's sisters traveled
> to Abu Dhabi" a month later, where they met with an al-Qaida agent at
> the Gulf emirate's airport to deliver large sums of cash.
> In mid-January 2005, New York federal judge Richard Casey wrote, in
> his grounds for allowing the civil suit against SBG filed by the
> families of 9/11 victims, that "the Saudi Binladin Group maintained
> close relationships with Osama bin Laden at certain times," and that
> it remains "unclear" whether these ties continued when OBL became
> involved in terrorism.
> Can this global company, with its close ties to the Saudi royal
> family, truly be brought to trial, or will the US government,
> officially allied with Riyadh in its "war on terror," work behind the
> scenes to have the case dismissed? SBG has already demonstrated its
> willingness to work with the West by entering into joint ventures
> with Motorola and a deal with Disney, and has also been Porsche's
> official agent in the kingdom. Moreover, SBG is developing new
> airport security equipment in Saudi Arabia, as well as building
> housing for US managers working in the oil industry.
> In Kazakhstan, the Saudi Binladin Group is helping build the
> country's new capital, Astana. In Syria, SBG and a Spanish company
> jointly operate the country's biggest olive oil processing plant. And
> in Dubai, the family company has just submitted a bid for a portion
> of the construction of what will be the world's tallest building.
> Next to aircraft, it seems, the bin Ladens see towers as a special
> challenge.
> HOTEL "PLAZA ATHÉNÉE". A dinner appointment with Yeslam bin Laden at
> one the French capital's most expensive and exclusive restaurants.
> He did not reserve a table. Was it because he doesn't like to
> identify himself as a bin Laden on the phone? "No no," says Osama's
> brother, "despite everything, I am proud of our family's name. But
> they know me here, so I don't need a reservation." Indeed, the staff,
> apparently accustomed to princely gratuities, practically bends over
> backward for bin Laden, a regular here, and seats us at the best
> table in the restaurant. Yeslam bin Laden, 55, orders a steak, medium
> rare. "Osama and I grew up very differently, and I never shared his
> system of beliefs," says Yeslam bin Laden.
> When Yeslam was six, his mother sent him to a school in Beirut,
> because it was far more liberal there than in Saudi Arabia. He later
> attended schools and universities in Sweden and England. Although he
> spent his vacations at home, he saw his father "rarely," and
> his "half-brother Osama no more than three or four times, the last
> time in 1987 or thereabouts." He says that his only clear memory of
> Osama is of his strict condemnation of music, and his religious
> fanaticism, which struck Yeslam as odd. Yeslam himself believes
> religion is a personal matter, and he refuses to take responsibility
> for others. "Am I my brother's keeper?" he asks, calling himself
> an "enlightened Muslim," clearly alluding to the biblical story of
> Cain and Abel.
> As a young man, Yeslam went to night clubs, drove a Porsche and
> earned his pilot's license. He studied business administration in Los
> Angeles. Photos from his college days show him with his Persian
> fiancée, a long-haired, happy hippy couple ensconced in the
> California lifestyle. He rarely received visitors from Saudi Arabia.
> One of these visitors was his devout brother Mahfus, who brought news
> of the bin Laden family, the Saudi royals and the Wahhabite clerics.
> But despite his worldly influences, Yeslam bin Laden retained his
> Saudi roots and insisted on a wedding in Jeddah. Against his wife
> Carmen's will, the women were fully veiled at the ceremony.
> After living in the United States, Yeslam spent more than a decade
> and a half in Saudi Arabia -- from 1977 to 1984 -- where he was one
> of the leading executives in the family company in Jeddah. After a
> dispute with his brothers over SBG's finances, Yeslam went to Geneva,
> where he founded an investment company that specialized in managing
> large fortunes. There were soon rumors that Yeslam had reconciled
> with Bakr and was involved once again in business dealings with the
> bin Laden family. He dreamed of the birth of a son, and probably of
> rising to the top of SBG management in Jeddah.
> When Yeslam's third daughter was born in April 1987 and he began
> spending long periods away from home, his marriage failed. According
> to his wife Yeslam, worried about his business, he became
> increasingly tense. Members of the Saudi royal family were now
> traveling to Geneva regularly and demanding his attention, especially
> the influential Prince Mishal. Yeslam bin Laden's divorce developed,
> as he himself says, into a bitter "War of the Roses." But in 2001,
> after years of troubles, he was finally successful on another front
> when he was granted Swiss citizenship. What is Yeslam's relationship
> with his brother Osama, who, as he claims, he last saw 18 years ago?
> "9/11 was a tremendous shock for me," says Yeslam, now an upstanding
> citizen of Geneva who has also donated many thousands of dollars to
> the local film festival. "Osama had long since become a stranger to
> me, nothing but a name one reads in the newspaper," he says. "I felt
> that I was being held responsible for the crimes of a relative." The
> offices of his Geneva-based Saudi Investment Company (Sico) and his
> properties near Cannes were searched by the authorities, "just like
> that, on the strength of suspicion," he says. In early 2001, he
> registered the name "Bin Laden" as a trademark. He planned to
> establish a fashion house that would sell Bin Laden jeans but then,
> heeding the advice of friends, he abandoned the idea after
> 9/11: "After the incidents in New York, it would have been seen as a
> label in poor taste."
> He developed a new business idea in the fall of 2004, a line of
> perfume. It's named "Yeslam," after its inventor and, according to
> its advertising, marries the scents of jasmine and lilies of the
> valley with an underlying note of sandalwood. In ads for the perfume,
> this combination of scents produces "a penetrating but gentle message
> for those who yearn for inner peace." The company plans to sell
> 60,000 bottles to its peace-loving customers.
> Everything could work out for the best in Yeslam's world -- if only
> these new, hateful accusations would go away. A shadow lies over the
> man who tries to be pro-American and anti-Osama with every fiber of
> his being. In late December 2004, the French paper Le Monde reported
> that examining magistrate Renaud von Ruymbeke plans to investigate
> the bin Laden family's allegedly dubious financial dealings.
> At the center of the investigation is an account that brothers Omar
> and Heidar bin Laden opened in 1990 with Swiss bank UBS with an
> initial deposit of $450,000. According to documents presented to the
> court, this account was still in existence in 1997, and only two
> people were authorized to conduct transactions: Yeslam and Osama bin
> Laden. The French court also intends to investigate information
> suggesting that €241 million were funneled from Switzerland to
> shadowy bank accounts in Pakistan through Akberali Moawalla, a former
> business partner of Sico and an acquaintance of Yeslam. Could all
> this have occurred with Yeslam's involvement or knowledge?
> "I am not involved in money-laundering, and especially not with al-
> Qaida," says Yeslam bin Laden, his voice becoming slightly hoarse and
> edgy. He says that he never used the alleged UBS account and,
> probably for this reason, forgot about it. He takes pains to point
> out that he has not been charged with anything, neither by the New
> York court nor the French judge. He says that he is "innocent until
> proven guilty" -- another Western concept that this man living
> between cultures values, knowing full well that it carries no
> particular weight in his native country.
> AND "HARRY'S TAP ROOM". It's a relatively inconspicuous burger-and-
> seafood restaurant conveniently located halfway between the White
> House and CIA headquarters in nearby Langley, Virginia. We are here
> for a meeting with the CIA agent who hunted down Osama, tried to shed
> light on the bin Laden family's business dealings, and probably knows
> a great deal about the mysterious departure of more than a dozen bin
> Laden family members from the United States after 9/11. This is the
> man who published the bestseller "Imperial Hubris" last year under
> the nom de plume "Anonymous."
> Anonymous now has a name and a face. His name is Mike Scheuer, and a
> gray beard partially covers his finely-chiseled academic face. He
> resigned from the CIA after 22 years of service, because he was no
> longer able to remain anonymous. Journalists were on the verge of
> uncovering his identity, and his book was facing harsh criticism from
> the White House. "That was when I did what had to be done," says
> Scheuer, 52, before taking a bite of his hamburger. He leaves his
> French fries untouched, glancing at his stomach. Being overweight
> isn't exactly part of the image someone wants to convey who, as a CIA
> field agent, helped arm the mujahedeen to fight the Russians in
> Afghanistan and who, in 1996, was placed in charge of "Alec," the top-
> secret unit authorized by former President Bill Clinton to hunt down
> bin Laden.
> It was the first time an entire CIA station focused on a single man.
> Scheuer headed the special unit for three years until his superiors,
> angered by his complaints that the hunt for the world's top terrorist
> was being conducted half-heartedly, reassigned him for the first
> time. But he was brought back after Sept. 11, 2001, when it became
> clear that his bleak predictions had come true. But Scheuer's
> criticism of the Iraq war ultimately destroyed his good standing with
> the White House. "Bush strengthened the terrorists with his invasion,
> but it was a truth that they didn't want to hear."
> Scheuer's axis of evil differs markedly from the president's. He
> believes that Pakistan and, even more so, Saudi Arabia are the
> epicenters of global violence. "Many Saudis support the terrorists in
> Iraq to this day - but we're the ones who are putting up the money --
> by paying $50 for a barrel of oil and making ourselves dependent on
> oil imports."
> Scheuer, an experienced intelligence expert, doubts that the entire
> bin Laden family has severed ties with Osama: "I haven't seen
> anything in the last 10 years that's convinced me that would be the
> case." In his view, SBG still derives some of its profits from
> business dealings in the Islamic world that can be linked to the
> family's supposed "black sheep." "He's treated as a hero almost
> everywhere over there," says Scheuer.
> The CIA came close to capturing OBL several times. On one occasion,
> during the al-Qaida leadership's hasty retreat from the Afghan city
> of Kandahar in the fall of 2001, family passports were inadvertently
> left behind. Saad, a son of Osama bin Laden, was supposedly sent back
> to al-Qaida headquarters to make sure the documents wouldn't fall
> into the hands of the Americans. When he realized he had forgotten
> the combination for the safe, he used a cell phone to get the
> information, directly violating his father's strict instructions.
> Several different intelligence agencies picked up the call, but by
> then it was too late to act.
> According to Scheuer, members of the bin Ladin family who were doing
> business in the United States or studying at US universities were
> almost completely inaccessible. "My counterparts at the FBI
> questioned one of the bin Ladens," the former CIA agent recalls. "But
> then the State Department received a complaint from a law firm, and
> there was a huge uproar. We were shocked to find out that the bin
> Ladens in the United States had diplomatic passports, and that we
> weren't allowed to talk to them."
> Scheuer believes that these diplomatic privileges also helped the bin
> Ladens get out of the United States quickly after September 11, in a
> bizarre episode that has even been probed by the US Congress and an
> investigative commission.
> Only two days after the attacks, when the US government had just
> reopened US air space, charter jets began taking off from various
> cities. Nine pilots flew 142 Saudi Arabians back to the kingdom. On
> Sept. 20, 2001, the "bin Laden jet" took off from St. Louis, making
> stops in Los Angeles, Orlando, Washington and Boston. At each stop,
> the plane picked up more half-brothers, nephews, nieces and cousins
> of public enemy number one. At that point, the FBI had already begun
> investigating two of the bin Ladens who were flown out of the
> country. They both lived in Falls Church, a suburb of Washington, and
> were officials in the "World Assembly of Muslim Youth."
> Richard Clarke, for many years the chief of counterterrorism at the
> White House, has revealed that he was responsible for the flights. He
> says that he grantedhis approval after having been asked to handle
> the issue. And by whom? Perhaps by Bush's chief of staff, Andrew
> Card, after coordinating the plan with Saudi ambassador Prince
> Bandar, a close friend of the First Family? "I would be happy tell
> you, but I don't remember," Clarke told a Senate investigating panel -
> - few believe he was telling the truth.
> Of course, former CIA agent Scheuer is well aware that the bin
> Ladens, as investors in and customers of the Carlyle Group, an
> investment company, had common business interests with the Bushs. In
> fact, until October 2003 George W.'s father and predecessor in the
> White House still worked as an "advisor" for Carlyle, which is also
> involved in the defense sector. Although Scheuer is no wild-eyed
> conspiracy theorist, he also believes that the US government
> was "unusually" accommodating to the bin Ladens. Does he regret
> leaving the CIA, and does he dream of returning? Scheuer, a father of
> four, says: "I liked my job. I wanted to protect the country against
> its enemies -- but not the president against his critics."
> Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
> © DER SPIEGEL 23/2005.
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